Carnegie Mellon University


April 13, 2022

Tracking sanctions for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Sam Abodo

By Bill Brink

Sam Abodo had good reason to apply for an internship with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That committee works on political appointees, of which there are many pending; he had think-tank experience and wanted to spend time on the Hill; and the Capitol is across the street from Carnegie Mellon’s Washington, DC office and classroom, where Abodo takes classes at night as a participant in the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program.

He couldn’t have known when he applied that he would be writing memos and attending hearings about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“There’s a lot of work on it, and I think the committee staff does a good job of getting us interns involved in it,” said Abodo, a junior International Relations and Politics major with a minor in Cybersecurity and International Conflict. “And also, the discussion at work has been great, learning what staffers think about the situation, getting some expert analysis that I wouldn’t have gotten without working on the Hill.”

Abodo is one of thirteen students spending the semester in Washington, DC, as part of the Washington Semester Program, which allows undergraduate students from any college or major to live, intern, and take classes in DC. The program provides students with alumni mentors and facilitates a head start in the networking process. Students also take classes about policy, politics, intelligence, government, and security, taught by Carnegie Mellon faculty who are experts in their fields.

Abodo’s internship is unpaid. He receives financial support from the Friedman Fellowships, which for the past twenty years have funded internships for Carnegie Mellon students in Washington, DC. Cynthia Friedman, a CMU trustee emerita and co-founder of the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, created the fellowships in honor of her husband Milton, a CMU alumnus. More than 300 students have used the funding to get their foot in the door in the nation’s capital.

One of Abodo’s Ukraine-related tasks is to track sanctions imposed upon Russia as a result of its invasion. This project requires an advanced level of research and constant tracking of sanctions that are coming down on a regular basis as the war continues.

“It’s definitely one of those projects that’s time-intensive and all, but at least I understand why it’s important and the fruitfulness of it,” Abodo said. “I think it’s always important when you’re working on something to know what the end goal is.”

Abodo has learned about the purpose of sanctions and how far-reaching they can be as a tool.

“It’s just interesting to see how much the world has rallied around sanctioning these oligarchs and these organizations,” he said. “At least before the invasion, I wouldn’t think that so many countries would be able to come together and commit economic “warfare” against Russia.”

To learn more about the Washington Semester Program, contact CMU/WSP Manager Meghan Mattern.